25 years later, disappearance still a mystery

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The disappearance a quarter century ago of Michele Reidenbach continues to stump police in Butler County and beyond.

Today is the 25th anniversary of the 16-year-old Seneca Valley High School senior's disappearance.

Bob Donaldson, Post-Gazette file photo (2001)
Kim Shuler, holding a 1981 photograph of Michele Reidenbach, and Judy Wolfe were friends of Michele, who vanished without a trace on Main Street in Zelienope on Sept. 22, 1981.
Click photo for larger image.

"There isn't a day that goes by that I don't think about the case," state police Cpl. Raymond J. Melder said yesterday.

Cpl. Melder, a native of Butler County, had been on the job for about a year when Michele was reported missing. Though he was not involved in the investigation back then, he was familiar with the family, all of Harmony, and he knew about the case.

Michele was a responsible teenager. She worked part time at the former Mel Den's Appliance Store in Zelienople. She was devoted to an older sister who was paralyzed and in the hospital.

On that rainy Tuesday when she was last seen, Michele had been to school.

Afterward, she had her senior photos taken and went to work. While there, she took a break to walk down the street to a drugstore for cold medication. She had contracted a bug.

Her late mother, Gloria, said then that she had intended to meet Michele so the two could visit her other daughter in the hospital. Gloria Reidenbach was running late, however, and went to the hospital without her younger child.

Michele was last seen at a supermarket parking lot on South Main Street in Zelienople.

Michele was 5-foot-2 and weighed 110 pounds. Her eyes are blue, her hair dark blonde.

Bob Donaldson, Post-Gazette
An age-progressed photo shows how Michele might look today.

Some of these characteristics likely have changed. Michele would be 42 Dec. 29.

Police believe Michele's case would have been handled differently now than it was 25 years ago. Investigators today begin their missing-persons probes sooner. They have and use more resources quicker as well, Cpl. Melder said.

He and Michele's siblings, he said, remain hopeful.

Michele's likeness is posted on the Internet Web site of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. More than 1 million other children are there as well.

Anyone with information about Michele can call Zelienople police at 724-287-7769.

Correction/Clarification: (Published Sept. 22, 2006) The caption on a photo originally accompanying this story about the disappearance of Michele Reidenbach neglected to say it was taken in 2001.

Jim McKinnon can be reached at jmckinnon@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1939.


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